Booze and Identity

Let's turn to New Zealand's Identity and Privacy Blog for the latest in… news about Canada:  

It’s interesting to see how booze seems to bring up great questions of identity and privacy. Or maybe it’s just the Canadians?

Canadian Dick Hardt uses buying booze as an example in his famous Identity 2.0 presentation and makes very interesting points about using ID, such as a drivers licence, to buy booze.

Now comes another angle from Canada involving booze: if your ID is scanned when entering a bar, would that make you behave? That was one of the issues at the heart of a case decided by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta.

The Tantra Nightclub in Calgary had a practice of scanning driver licences before allowing people in. Clearly it is collecting and storing personal information as it includes an individual’s photograph, license number, birth date, address, and bar codes with embedded information unique to the individual driver’s license.

The club says that “We’ve got hard data that it works, we that says crime and violence is down in our venues by over 77%.” On the other hand, the Information and Privacy Commissioner described ID scanning as a deterrent to violent behaviour “conjecture” not backed up by hard data and ordered the club to stop the practice.

In terms of consent, the only thing that the complainant agreed to was the club confirming his date of birth off the licence.

This is precisely the kind of situation that the Laws of Identity frowns upon in digital identity systems, in particular User Control and Consent; Minimal Disclosure for a Constrained Use; and Directed Identity. And another example of unjustified expectations from ID cards that knowing a person’s identity somehow magically solves most societal problems.

Wow.  You have to love this nightclub chain.

The owner is apparently bitter.  But he could get around these problems if he would just change the club's name to something more fitting.  How about the Mein Kampf Eagle Lounge?  Then having a functionary scanning “your papers” would just be part of the show – justifiable by any measure.

The whole report is worth a read, but this argument by Tantra management really stands out:

“The SC System [SecureClub ID System – Kim], as part of the overall comprehensive security system, is intended to act as a deterrent to potential wrongdoers in that all patrons know that their identification is scanned and that therefore they could easily be identified if they were involved in any violent or illegal activity. It is submitted that potential wrongdoers would be less likely to engage in violent or other illegal behaviour if their ability to remain anonymous was removed. It is further submitted that the SC system removes the anonymity of potential wrongdoers, and is therefore one effective component of an effective overall comprehensive security system.”

Hey, come to think of it, we should all have our papers scanned wherever we go, day and night!

Gee, maybe it's that Canadian thing, but it all makes me want to go for a beer.

Published by

Kim Cameron

Work on identity.

2 thoughts on “Booze and Identity”

  1. Kim,
    What may seem as a nightmare scenario to us is not so strange in historical perspective. Up until a few hundred years ago, people lived in much smaller communities where anonymity only existed during carnival. Given the vulnerability of our world with its extremely mobile inhabitants, it is not unthinkable that even democratic societies will choose to trade anonymity for security. It is happening already and there is no telling where it will stop.

  2. My whole life I've gone to bars. I like popular music, so I've been prepared to go wherever the playing was good – including some pretty rough places.

    I saw a fight or two. Seems to me that's called human nature. There were bouncers around to protect everyone.
    Today with cell phones, if you see someone beating someone up and you aren't able to stop it, the least you can do is get a photo. So we can't talk about anonymity here. Further, there are often security cameras that can be consulted.

    One reason people moved to cities was to gain privacy. And guess what? Cities have become more popular than small rural communities. Taking us back to the dark ages or moving me into a tiny village doesn't excite me.

    The comparison with Carnival is a good one. But people don't go into the Tantra wearing masks. There is a difference between being disguised, and not being scanned.

    Anyway, my piece was really a report about what Alberta law said: scanning is not justified.

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